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Best Burgers in the Triangle?

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Did anyone see Jeopardy last night?

If you did, you saw a contestant, a young man from Durham, declare that his life quest was to find the world's best cheeseburger. Currently atop his list? Sutton's Drugstore on Franklin St.

Now, I actually agree with him. The burgers at Sutton's are unimaginably good; they are made from pretty good quality meat and they are grilled fresh on a grill that has seen its share of students come and go.

But, I was wondering what other people think. What is the best place to get a good ol' burger in the Triangle?

My top three:
1) Sutton's
2) Chargrill
3) Fat Daddy's

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  1. Suttons's, really? I'm a new UNC student and have passed it a thousand times, but never really thought it would be good...I'll have to check it out!

    5 Replies
    1. re: eliah

      I'll have to check out Sutton's. I like Wimpy's and the Fed in Durham. Sawmill Tap in Raleigh makes a mean burger. Nor sure about Wimpy's but the other 2 places grind their own meat and that's key.

      1. re: Tom from Raleigh

        Wimpy's also grinds their own meat daily - great burgers!

      2. re: eliah

        Oh, do check out Sutton's. It's an old-fashioned lunch counter, which is such a rarity these days. It's like a blast from the past. And while I cannot speak for the cheeseburgers, the BLTs are just like Mom used to make (assuming your Mom was into making stuff like that :) ). And cheap, too! Simple, good, inexpensive food.

        1. re: romansperson

          Slightly OT but still fairly relevant - while the burgers aren't the best in town, the BLT's and egg salad at Hayes Barton in Raleigh are wooooooonderful...

        2. re: eliah

          Replying to my own post to say: I just got back from Sutton's, and it was a great burger! Nothing fancy, but there's no reason a burger ought to be. I got a cheeseburger, with tomato and lettuce, and it was simple and intensely satisfying. $4.25 or something. Came with chips. Service was pleasant enough, if a bit brisk; but they had something of a lunch-time rush so that's perfectly understandable. I can see I'll be coming back.

        3. For me, you have to have a medium rare to medium burger so that means they have to grind their own meat....I like Porter's, Federal, Capital City Chop House, Parizade (they have a sourdough gruyere cheeseburger with caramelized onions at lunch). Haven't been to 501 Diner in ages but they used to have a good one. Used to like Sawmill Taproom but last time there it was only medium well and above. Haven't yet been to Dain's Place but that is next on the list.

          1. In Raleigh, the Player's Retreat makes a hell of a burger. With an amazing Scotch collection to wash it down. It's on Oberlin Rd near Hillsborough.

            1. Dain's has a pretty substantial and yummy burger. Elmo's has won Indy awards for best burgers, but I don't know that I agree.

              As for Sutton's, in my years at UNC, I never had a burger. I always deferred to the egg salad sandwich or BLT.

              1. In the early 90s, I'd go to Suttons just to get a veggie burger with pickle, slaw, chili, mustard, lettuce, and tomato.

                They are not gourmet anything, but there are times when I just want good old-fashioned pharmacy counter food. Places mostly long gone, like McDonalds on 9th Street in Durham, or the Halls Drug Store in Oxford, NC, or that old place that used to be in downtown Smithfield that had those *great* hotdogs 40 years ago.

                1. The Angus barn has a great burger available in the bar. It is made from the filet scraps and ground up and made into hamburger. Also, Abbey Rd in Cary has a decent burger, rolls not so good.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: winedine

                    I didn't love the Abbey Rd burger but will say for them that they'll cook it as rare (raw) as you ask them to.

                  2. I saw that Jeopardy episode. I found it funny that his life quest was to find the perfect burger and the best one he'd found was a stone's throw from his home town. I think he needs to try a little harder...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: SenorSuarez

                      I find it funny that you'd say that I should "try a little harder" without knowing a little more background...I was the guy on the Jeopardy episode and trust me -- I've had a number of bad burgers in my time of looking for the good ones. My answer on Jeopardy was that ONE of the best was Sutton's - but it certainly wasn't the only one on the list. I've had burger's all over the nation and the world...and there have been some good ones that are on the "best" list...Rockaway's in Columbia, SC, the Beacon in Spartanburg, SC, the Salt Works in Wilmington, CityGrille in Denver, Lynagh's in Lexington, KY, etc.

                      And FWIW, one of the bad ones I had was at Char-Grill in Raleigh which was a stone's throw from where I used to work in Raleigh.

                      1. re: casprouse

                        Haha, you got me! I shouldn't have been so quick to judge, my apologies. Any suggestions on a good burger in Orlando, FL? I spend a lot of time there.

                        1. re: casprouse

                          Ohhhhhhh Rockaways...if only the Triangle could DREAM of burgers that good! :-) I have to disagree on the Beacon, though - I think they've really gone downhill in recent years. In Sparkle City, the burgers at Ike's are unbelievably good.

                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            I guess I can agree somewhat on the Beacon....its a once in a year experience b/c of the grease, but part of the goodness of the Beacon is the whole "experience"--JC's "talk and walk, c'mon, c'mon", the sheer volume of the operation, and that wonderful sweet tea!! I actually saw one of the workers with a 50# sack of sugar over a shoulder pouring into a vat of fresh tea!

                            And as for Rockaways.....the true character of the place (pre-fire) made it the best "local" place I've ever know -- for those not familiar--there was no sign on the door, no windows looking at the street, nothing to let the causal passerby know that there's a great bar there -- you just had to know where to go. Ahh a chili cheese with fried okra and fried zucchini....now thats some eating!

                      2. I'm diggin' Dain's on 9th Street these days, but everybody has a different idea of what the "best burger" is. I think the bun is key - at Dain's they're just right - not too flimsy, but not too bready or firm. Good stuff.

                        1. Thanks for the mention of the Jeopardy appearance! It was a wild experience. I've heard from a lot of people with Chapel Hill connections who were glad to see the national shout out to Sutton's. Plus its just a good old fashioned burger -- especially Carolina style with chili, slaw, mustard, and onions!

                          1. Abbey Road burger was disappointing. Didn't like the location, atmosphere or anything about the place.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: prius

                              Did you not like the atmosphere, or not like the taste/texture/quality/whatever of the burger? Not to nit pick...but that's really two different things.

                              1. re: prius

                                I'm surprised to read two negative comments on Abbey Road. The meat is fresh, ground not long before it's cooked, then cooked to your specified doneness. Location? - if you don't live in Cary or Apex I admit that could be trouble. Atmosphere? - low-budget Hard Rock, but check Zagat if you value decor over food.

                                But you didn't like anything??! Not even the best onion rings in the whole Triangle? Not even the daily beer specials? The pool tables in the bar? Anything? Maybe both you and the restaurant each had a bad night that synergized into your disappointing experience.

                              2. The best burger I've had in the Triangle so far is at Bin 54. As they grind their own meat, I can get a great medium-rare burger, and it has great fries to go with it as well. The only downside is the cost at $14 or so, but you can get it at the bar and have a nice meal. For a cheaper burger, I had a very good one at Southern Rail the other weekend that I'd like to go back and try again, and it was only around $7 or so.

                                I'm always somewhat happy when work sends me on the road to a state that allows medium-rare burgers, however, as there's no food I like more.

                                1. Sutton's does serve a good Carolina style burger as well as a superb hotdawg.

                                  Speaking of such, has anyone tried the burgers at Missy's Grill in Efland? I know their hot dogs and milkshakes are good, but haven't tried the burgers.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jnday

                                    I used to live right near missy's in efland. the burgers are not very good. however, they are cheaper than dirt (like 2 dollars or something?). I would stick to the hot dogs and milshakes, but hey, go ahead and try it out yourself! i miss missy's now that I'm in georgia. :(

                                  2. Nothing wrong with 5 Guys. Awesome burgers.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Westy

                                      Nothing wrong with 5 Guys ... except the quality, taste, and price.

                                      1. re: mclaugh

                                        I agree about the price. while they have better food than mcdonalds, wendys, bk, etc, theyre prices are about a dollar too high for everything on the menu. and whats the deal with not having milkshakes? that angers me.

                                    2. Agree with Dain's and Federal already mentioned and two I'd throw in there that haven't ben mentioned are Tyler's Taproom (either Durham or Carrboro) and 411 West (Chapel Hill).

                                      1. Forgot to mention Hi 5 (Glenwood South area) where they cook to your temperature and have a number of great burgers for only $5.....$7 if you want to upgrade to Kobe beef. Probably best burger deal in town.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: klaatu47

                                          DAIN'S PLACE -- 9th street in Durham. For a NC burger, it's really good. The Dainer is served with 1000 Island dressing and bacon... awesome.

                                        2. You can get a pretty decent burger in the Bar at the Carolina Inn for about 8$. I'm told they grind up the tips from when the cut the fillets for their burgers. Having said that, it seems the quality here has dropped off in the last couple of months. They fries aren't much to speak about either.

                                          1. I'll have to give Sutton's a try.

                                            I'll add Breadmans- Cliff's grinds for them
                                            Federal
                                            Chargrill
                                            Wimpy's
                                            And I've heard from a reliable source the Watt's Grocery burger is awsome.

                                            1. Mostly only eaten hamburgers in Raleigh...

                                              Chargrill
                                              Cloos Coney Island
                                              MoeJoe's
                                              Most recently "The Brute Squad" at The Borough.